Last reviewed October 2015
Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to Minnesota legislators. It is designed to provide an introduction to the topic, directing the user to a variety of sources, and is not intended to be exhaustive.
"Reapportionment is the process of reassigning a given number of seats in a legislative body to established districts, usually in accordance with an established plan or formula. The number and boundaries of the districts do not change, but the number of members per district does." From How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court by Peter Wattson, Minnesota Senate, Senate Counsel and Research, 2009.
According to the U.S. Constitution, the Census has one fundamental purpose: to ensure that the representation of each state is apportioned fairly in the 435 member U.S. House of Representatives according to population. Each ten years the U.S. Census Bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, conducts a census to determine the population of each state, and then calculates the number of representatives based on a method of equal proportions. The representation of each state must reflect the relative size of its population as compared to other states. The official state population counts from the 2000 Census, and the number of representatives apportioned to each state, must be reported to the president by December 31, 2000. The counts were released on December 28, 2000. Minnesota has had 8 representatives since 1960. Since our state has had a fairly strong rate of growth, roughly approximating the national rate, Minnesota retained its eight seats. Reapportionment does not affect the U.S. Senate in which each state has two senators, regardless of population.
"Redistricting is the process of changing district boundaries. The number of members per district does not change, but the districts' boundaries do." (From How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court by Peter Wattson, Minnesota Senate, Senate Counsel and Research, 2009.) Each of Minnesota's 67 Senate districts includes within its boundaries two House districts, a total of 201 districts.
Tom Gillaspy, Minnesota's State Demographer, describes the next steps of redistricting very well in his Fact Sheet on Reapportionment and Redistricting.
"Once reapportionment has been determined, the next step is redistricting. Since the earliest days of the nation, the state legislatures have been responsible for redrawing the boundaries of both congressional and legislative districts to reflect population shifts. A series of court actions during the 1960s and 70s reinforced the requirement for redistricting each decade and established that the size of the districts be based on population. During March 2001, the Minnesota State Legislature will receive the census data necessary to redraw the state's eight congressional districts and 201 legislative districts. The data will include a count of the total population and population age 18 and older by detailed race and Hispanic ethnicity, by census block, census tract, precinct or voting district, city and township, county, and a number of other specialized geographic entities. Work is already underway to have computer and technical resources ready for the legislators to draw boundaries for the new districts. Their plans will ultimately take the form of bills for legislative passage. Once the Legislature has passed a redistricting bill, the Governor will have the option of signing it or vetoing it. If he signs the bill, redistricting has been accomplished. If he vetoes the bill, the Legislature might vote to override the veto. If the veto withstands an override attempt, a new bill must be written, passed and sent to the Governor."
As redistricting bills with plans were introduced during the 2001 Minnesota legislative session, maps of the proposed districts were made available on the Legislature's GIS website. The Web-based software chosen to generate the various redistricting proposals of legislative staff, Governor's staff, and many local governments, was Maptitude. Additional description of the Legislature's redistricting computer systems is detailed in the Minnesota Redistricting System Profile. A Senate Counsel report, Public Access to Redistricting Data in Minnesota, provides details on Minnesota's open records law and how the Minnesota Legislature makes redistricting data available to the public.
Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau from the 2000 Census included more detailed race and ethnicity categories than previous censuses, and also reported people listing multiple ethnicities. As described in the primer, Use of Racial Data in Redistricting, "The Subcommittee's redistricting system will include all 504 categories of racial and Spanish heritage data, real and adjusted."
Governor Ventura was interested in helping the Legislature create an even-handed plan with politically competitive districts. Dean Barkley, Director of Minnesota Planning, chaired an 11-member Governor's Citizen Advisory Commission on Redistricting. The group included representatives of the four major political parties, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and four additional members.
Drawing congressional and legislative district boundaries is a difficult political process. Ideally, staff hired by the four legislative caucuses (House Republican Caucus, House DFL Caucus, Senate Republican Caucus, and the Senate DFL Caucus) draft proposed redistricting plans and come to consensus on a plan that meets the technical requirements of law. This plan must be approved and signed by the Governor and must also stand up to any court challenges. Principles and guidance for drawing a successful plan are found in a Senate Counsel treatise, How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court. Citations to relevant constitutional provisions, state law, and useful background statistics are compiled in a Minnesota Redistricting Profile.
Role of the Courts
"Where the majority has gone too far, or where partisan differences between the two houses of a state legislature, or between the legislature and the governor, look like they may prevent the legislature from enacting a redistricting bill in time for the general election in the year ending in two, any resident of a mal-apportioned district may bring suit in state or federal court and ask the court to correct an enacted plan or adopt a plan if none has been enacted. A federal court must defer to a state court, and both must defer to a legislature that is actively engaged in adopting a plan, but if the legislature fails to meet reasonable deadlines imposed by the court, the court may impose a redistricting plan of its own, to be effective until adoption of a valid plan by the legislature." (From: Reapportionment and Redistricting in the United States of America by Peter Wattson, Senate Counsel and Research, 2000.)
Minnesota's congressional and legislative plans have often been referred to the courts. (See the History of Minnesota Redistricting timetable and Resources on Minnesota Issues: Redistricting 1990.) For background on the roles of state courts and federal courts in redistricting litigation, see Chapter V, Prepare to Defend Your Plan in Both State and Federal Courts, from the treatise How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court by Peter Wattson.
New Congressional and Legislative districts must be determined early enough to give sufficient time to prepare for the state primary elections in November of the year ending in two. The statutory deadline (Minnesota Statutes, section 204B.14) is twenty-five weeks before the November election; for the 2000-2002 redistricting process, the deadline was March 19, 2002. If the Legislature is not able to adopt a plan by the statutory deadline, the matter is referred to the courts. It became apparent early in 2001 that there was a risk that the Legislature would not be able to meet this deadline. On July 12, 2001, Chief Justice Kathleen A. Blatz of the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed a special redistricting panel, in response to a suit brought by Susan M. Zachman et al. alleging that, under the then-current congressional districts, the population of the state of Minnesota was unconstitutionally mal-apportioned. The panel then developed a redistricting plan to be released only in the event that the Legislature failed to develop a plan in a timely manner.
The Legislature did not adopt a redistricting plan before the deadline and on March 19, 2002, the Congressional and Legislative Districts ordered by the Minnesota Supreme Court in the matter of Zachman v. Kiffmeyer (case #C0-01-160) were released in the standard course of appellate opinion releases for that day. Maps and Redistricting Panel information are available regarding these Congressional and Legislative districts from the Legislature's Geographic Information Systems Office.
Once districts are established, local units of government with districts apportioned by population must also redistrict themselves. When all the districts have been determined, boundaries for election precincts are set. Statutes governing local government redistricting procedure are listed in the State Redistricting Profile.
Significant Books and Reports
2002 Congressional Districts. St. Paul: Legislative Coordinating Commission, Subcommittee on Geographic Information Systems, 2002. (JK2493 .T96 2002)
2002 Legislative Districts. St. Paul: Legislative Coordinating Commission, Subcommittee on Geographic Information Systems, 2002. (JK6168 .N572 2002)
Gillaspy, Tom. Fact Sheet on Reapportionment and Redistricting. St. Paul: Minnesota Planning, 2000. (A succinct and informative essay by Minnesota's State Demographer.)
Redistricting Law 2000. Denver, CO: National Conference of State Legislatures, 1999. (KF4905 .N27 1999)
State Redistricting Profiles 2000. Washington, D.C.: National Conference of State Legislatures, 1999. (JK2493 .S73 1999)
Wattson, Peter. 1990s Supreme Court Redistricting Decisions. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel and Research, 2002.. (JK1341.W38 1997) (This essay covers U.S. Supreme Court decisions affecting many states; there is a section specifically dealing with Minnesota.)
Wattson, Peter. Enacting a Redistricting Plan. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel and Research, 1997. (KF4905.W38 1997) (A review of the procedures states have used to enact legislative and congressional redistricting plans.)
Wattson, Peter. History of Minnesota Redistricting. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel and Research, 2010.
Wattson, Peter. How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel and Research, 1999. (JK1341.W382 1999)
Wattson, Peter. Outline of Redistricting Litigation. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel and Research, 1999. (JK1341.W384 1997) (A state-by-state list of court cases, a project of the Redistricting Task Force of the National Conference of State Legislatures.)
Wattson, Peter. Public Access to Redistricting Data in Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel and Research, 2000. (KFM5862.6.A25W37 2000)
Wattson, Peter. Reapportionment and Redistricting in the United States of America. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel and Research, 2000. (KF4905.Z9W383 2000)
Wattson, Peter. Use of Racial Data in Redistricting. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel and Research, 2001. (KF4905.W39 2000)
Wattson, Peter. Using Census Data for Redistricting in Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel and Research, 1990.
(articles in reverse chronological order)
Weber, Ronald E. "Emerging Trends in State Legislative Redistricting." Spectrum: The Journal of State Government, Winter 2002, p. 13-15.
Maeda, David. "Balancing Act." Session Weekly, January 19, 2001, p.3-4, 27.
"Politically Complex Task of Redistricting Lies Ahead." Minnesota Journal, October 17, 2000, p. 1-2.
"Ten Secrets of Redistricting." State Legislatures, September 1999, p. 26-29.
Significant Internet Resources
2002 Minnesota Legislative Districts -- Data by geographic region from the Minnesota Geospacial Information Office.
Census 2000 Gateway -- Includes tables, maps and reports from the Census Bureau.
Congressional Apportionment -- A website from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Meeting minutes of the Minnesota House Committee on Redistricting.
Meeting minutes of the Minnesota Senate Subcommittee on Redistricting of the Committee on Rules and Administration and the Senate Redistricting Work Group.
Minnesota State Court Redistricting Panel -- Appointed by Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz in July 2001.
Redistricting -- Information and maps from the Minnesota Legislature's Geographic Information Systems office.
Redistricting -- Redistricting information from many states from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Redistricting Archive Page 2001-02 - Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services Television Archives of House committee action.
Status of Women Profiles - Detailed demographic information about the status of women in Minnesota legislative districts and counties, provided by the Minnesota Office on the Economic Status of Women.
Additional Library Resources
For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches:
Apportionment (Minnesota); Redistricting (Minnesota).
For further information on redistricting see: